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Is a dog considered a lethal weapon in New York?

People all across the United States generally believe that we know what is considered a dangerous weapon. If asked, a person might mention guns, knives and other sharp or powerful objects used to inflict pain on another person. But did you know that in some cases, man's best friend can also be considered a weapon?

New Yorkers may have heard about a case in 2012 when a man was arrested and charged for criminal possession of a weapon after he allegedly instructed his dog to attack police officers. It was stated that the dog, which is a pit bull, was used as weapon, so the dog's owner should have to face a weapons possession charge. But is it appropriate to assign criminal weapons charges to dog owners?

Over the years, there have been only a handful of cases in which a dog is classified as a weapon and an owner then faces serious charges. In these cases, the dogs have reportedly lunged at or attacked people after being instructed by their owners. But few people are actually convicted of criminal possession of weapons when the case involves a dog. There are other charges and convictions that can stem from an altercation with a dog, but rarely do they include a criminal weapons charge.

But reports suggest that these cases are being seen more and more. Owners who instruct or allow their dogs to attack others are being aggressively charged and prosecuted to a degree which some people find excessive. This may be especially true when people consider the fact that a dog's attack may be in response to the conduct of others, including police officers.

Weapons charges in New York should be taken very seriously. Whether the charge is related guns or dogs, the penalties of a conviction can be significant. In some cases, people who are in this difficult situation are able to pursue reduced or dismissed charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney. 

Source: The New York Times, "Instruments of Danger in Weapons Case Were Dogs, Authorities Say," J. David Goodman, Oct. 6, 2013

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